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The yellow, strap-like flowers of this native shrub are among the last blooms to appear in fall, but are often hidden by the leaves. Common witch-hazel is a large shrub with a picturesque irregular branching habit that naturally grows along woodland edges. The large, rounded, dark green leaves often hang onto the winter branches. The fruit capsules mature a year after flowering, splitting open to expel seeds that are attractive to birds. Tolerant of road salt and clay soil. This is a great specimen plant or in a naturalized landscape.

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) witch-hazel
  • Family (botanic) Hamamelidaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Compact tree (10-15 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily), Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Road salt
  • Season of interest early fall, late fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, Yellow
  • Shape or form Irregular, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate

Size and form:

Common witch-hazel grows 15 to 25 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide with an irregular form at maturity. In part shade it will have a more open habit than in full sun. 

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to eastern United States commonly found wooded areas. C-Value: 8

Attracts birds & butterflies:

The seeds are eaten by a number of birds species. It serves as a host plant for the larvae of the spring azure butterfly.

Bark color and texture:

Tan-colored lenticels are prominent in older grayish stems. 

Leaf description:

The six inch long simple, alternate leaves are oval and irregular with wavy or toothed margins. They are green in summer, changing to a clear yellow in fall.

Flower description:

The one inch, yellow, strap-like petals flower in late October when leaves are still present.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Fruit is a capsule which ripens in the fall.

Plant care:

Performs best in moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter, but can tolerate clay soil. If needed, mulch to keep soil moist and avoid dry conditions.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

There aren’t any serious pests. Tolerant of black walnut toxicity and aerial salt spray.

Champlin’s Red common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana ‘Champlin’s Red’):

Vase-shaped to rounded eight to 10 feet high fragrant shrub with yellow and a tinge of red at base of flowers.

Harvest Moon common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana ‘Harvest Moon’):

It matures to 10 to 15 feet high with showy, fragrant lemon-yellow flowers.

Little Suzie common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana ‘Little Suzie’):

This compact shrub at four to six feet high has soft sulfur-yellow flowers.

Pendula common witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana ‘Pendula’):

A slightly weeping form, six foot high by 12 feet wide shrub with fragrant yellow flowers.

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